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In the Battle of Shifting Responsibility of Supplying Oxygen, Citizen’s Life Cannot be Jeopardised: SC

The top court had directed the Centre to rectify the oxygen shortage supply in Delhi by May 3
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to ensure that the deficit in Delhi’s demand for 700 metric tons of oxygen per day is rectified on or before the midnight of May 3. This order was passed in the Covid-19 crisis suo motu matter In Re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services during Pandemic.

The three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat recorded that the existing allocation of oxygen for Delhi remained at 490 metric tons per day, while the projected demand had increased by 133% to 700 metric ton per day, and that therefore there was a need to remedy the same.

The Central government itself had admitted in its affidavit filed in Supreme Court that the Delhi Government has revised its projected demand for oxygen by 133% from 490 metric ton per day to 700 metric ton per day. To this, the court said, “This situation must be remedied forthwith. The situation on the ground in Delhi is heart rending.”

The Supreme Court noted that the arguments put forward by the Centre and the Delhi government is not helping the citizens. The Centre had argued that the Arvind Kejriwal government is delaying in lifting the allocated quantity of oxygen whereas, the Delhi government contended that despite its projected demand, the quantity allocated has not been enhanced.

“Recriminations between the Central Government and GNCTD can furnish no solace to citizens whose lives depend on a thin thread of oxygen being available”, said the court. It has directed both the centre and state government to cooperate with each other over the matter.

“In the battle of shifting responsibility of supplying/off taking of oxygen, the lives of citizens cannot be put in jeopardy”, recorded the order. Further, it said, “The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the Central Government and the GNCTD to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation.”

The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that he will ensure that the deficit of oxygen is rectified and supply is made to the Delhi government according to their projected demand (which may be revised in the future) on a day-by-day basis.

Buffer emergency stock of oxygen

The top court noted that while the Central and State Governments are in the process of managing the supply of oxygen, it is also critical that a buffer emergency stock of oxygen is created so that in the event that the supply chain is disrupted to any one or more hospitals in an area for any reason, the buffer or emergency stocks can be used to avoid loss of human lives.

These emergency stocks must be so distributed so as to be easily accessible without delay in every local area, suggested the court. It said, “We have also seen the situation that has developed in the last 24 hours in Delhi where patients, including among them medical professionals, died because of the disruption of supplies and the time lag in the arrival of tankers.”

Thus, it directed the Central Government to rectify such deficits at any given point by creating buffer stocks and collaborating with the States through the virtual control room on a daily basis. “In view of the deaths which are being caused daily by the disruption of supplies, this direction is more crucial than ever”, reiterated the court.

The location of the emergency stocks, according to the Supreme Court, shall be decentralised so as to be immediately available if the normal supply chain is disrupted to any hospital for any reason. The emergency stocks are set to be created within the next four days by May 6.

For better transparency, the Bench also suggested a mechanism for displaying real time updates of supply of oxygen from each State to hospitals in each district, along with the remaining stock of oxygen with the hospitals that could be maintained and shared with the citizens to ensure transparency. “This will also ensure that citizens can easily identify the hospitals where medical aid can be availed”, said the Bench.

Delhi Hospitals continue to send out SOS tweets for help amid acute oxygen shortage. Batra Hospital lost eight patients including a doctor due to shortage of oxygen supply on May 1. Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital (New Delhi) tweeted on May 2 that it wouldn’t admit patients who required oxygen or ventilation support due to inconsistent liquid oxygen supply. They also added that they did not have enough supply post 11 P.M.

Similarly, Akash Healthcare took to twitter to say that they received only 5 oxygen cylinders and had about 250 patients with not more than one hour of supply left. After receiving sufficient supply to last them a night, the hospital stated, “We got the help & got oxygen to tide over the night. Sincere request to our authorities to regularise the flow to avoid such near-death crises.”

Courtesy: Sabrang India

The order may be read here:

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